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NAACP Board of Directors Affirms Call for Charter School Moratorium

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On Saturday, the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ratified a resolution adopted by delegates at its 2016 National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for increased oversight over existing charter schools.

In an editorial last week the New York Times criticized the NAACP convention call for a moratorium accusing the organization of being "out of touch" with younger African-Americans. It wanted the Board of Directors to override the convention vote. Apparently New York Times editors think they have a better sense of what African-American parents want and need for their children.

The NAACP's call for a moratorium charged that the recruitment of academically higher performing students by charter schools helped undermined support and funding for public schools and education for the majority of children who remain in traditional schools. Cornell Brooks, President of the NAACP, described charter schools as one step in the "preschool to prison pipeline."

The Times especially praised New York City charter schools, ignoring a long history of problems with the city program. Success Academy Charter School Network is New York City's largest charter school network. About 11,000 children attend its thirty-six schools. The network receives federal and state funding and free space from New York City for all of its schools. Currently it is accused of discriminating against students with disabilities, at least according to a filed by parents and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James with the State University of New York, which licenses charter school in the state.

The Success Network is also accused of repeatedly suspending young children who have been difficult in an effort to push their families to transfer them out of the charter schools. In October 2015 the New York Times reported that at least one of the Success Academy Charter Network's schools maintained a "got to go" list that singled out students who were considered troublesome. The suspicion is that the "Suspension" network's harsh disciplinary practices are designed to boost their schools performance rate on standardized tests.

On Saturday, February 13, 2016, the New York Times reported on a Success Academy teacher seen chastising a first grade student on a video. In the video, filmed in fall 2014, we see a young African-American girl who is confused about a math problem. Her teacher then rips up her paper and sends her to the "calm-down chair," although the only one who is not calm in this sequence is the teacher. The teacher then addresses the entire class telling them in a loud and agitated voice, "There's nothing that infuriates me more than when you don't do what's on your paper."

The teacher shown in the video is what Success Academy considers a model teacher. Not only does she teach first-grade students, but she mentors other teachers in the Cobble Hill, Brooklyn school. After the incident surfaced, the teacher was suspended temporarily, but was returned to the classroom and her role as a mentor in less than two weeks. Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz dismissed the teacher's behavior in the video as an "anomaly."

The Times editorial made a series of points that actually support the NAACP call for a moratorium on charter schools. It effectively made the case for the NAACP Board of Directors to support its membership and approve the call for a moratorium until all of these issues are resolved.

According to the New York Times, "These schools [charter schools], which educate only about 7 percent of the nation's students, are far from universally perfect, and those that are failing should be shut down."

Although "When properly managed and overseen, well-run charter schools give families a desperately needed alternative to inadequate traditional schools in poor urban neighborhoods," the Times agrees that far to many are not "properly managed and overseen." The editorial cited a study by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes that acknowledged that "that poorly run charters can be disastrous. In some areas, the study notes, not a single charter school outperforms the traditional school alternative -- and in some places, more than half are significantly worse. The city of Detroit, where more than half of students attend charter schools, has recently become an example of such a failure."

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, analyzed the results of the New York State Common Core English Language Arts test administered last April. Overall, charter schools in New York City did outperform public schools. Burris reported the proficiency rate for charter schools was 43% compared to 36% for the traditional public schools. However, if you do not factor in students with disabilities and English language learners, groups that are disproportionately attending the traditional public schools, the city's public school test performance surpassed the proficiency rate for charter schools by 50% to 46%.

In the Washington Post Carol Burris and Valerie Strauss have done a series of reports on failing and what appear to be fraudulent charter schools in California. A report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy group, concluded that over 20% of California charter schools have enrollment policies that violate state and federal law.

In the end, the New York Times agreed that "[T]he N.A.A.C.P. has raised legitimate concerns that lawmakers and education officials need to take seriously. It notes, for example, that minority students are more likely to be suspended from charter schools than their white peers."

African American parents often have to make difficult decisions when selecting schools for their children, especially families living in inner-city communities with under-performing schools. Charter school groups push themselves as miracle answers to educational problems, but their promises and record of performance is suspect.

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